If selling their current home is on the agenda for winter, homeowners have every reason to be upbeat about the prospects.
The six months from April through September of this year have seen the pace of recovery in the northern Illinois real estate market accelerate considerably. There were 29 percent more home sales and the median sales price was 13 percent higher than during the same period in 2012.
Owners eager to attract serious buyers at this time of year, when temperatures drop, daylight shortens and gardens fade, are well advised to take steps that will increase their odds of garnering not just a single offer, but several.
A home must be priced right to attract buyers, but it is also vital to maintain its curb appeal. Otherwise, buyers may simply drive away without setting foot in the residence, according to Johanna Koslofski, broker/owner of RE/MAX Valley, Realtors®, in Roscoe, Ill.
"Landscape is important at anytime of year when it comes to curb appeal," Koslofski said. "You don't want a landscape that gives the impression the home isn't nicely maintained."
That means raking up leaves and cutting back dead plants as much as possible – but don't damage the perennials. With few if any flowers in the yard to grab the eyes of visitors, be sure the front entrance area looks especially attractive as it is the first thing buyers encounter.
David Cobb, an agent with RE/MAX All Properties in New Lenox, Ill., points to staging a home as a key step for sellers. When a home is staged, its owners remove clutter and rearrange artwork and furniture to best showcase a home. Staging can make rooms look larger and homes feel airier. Homes that are free of clutter and unnecessary furniture make a positive impact on buyers. Such homes, if priced appropriately, also tend to attract more offers.
"The younger buyers who are out there today are drawn to homes that are staged well," Cobb said.
Condition is important, too. Owners should repair broken windows, replace torn carpeting and repaint interior walls that are chipped, faded or dirty. Exterior painting can also add appeal to a property, but it needs to be done when the temperature is at least 50 degrees, advise the experts, and watch out for inclement weather. Rain can ruin a fresh coat of paint.
"Repainting your home can make an incredible difference," Cobb said. "Buyers deciding between your home and another might choose the one with a new coat of paint because it looks cleaner and fresher. Minor work, minor improvements and staging a property can tip the balance in your direction. These are simple solutions, but they can make your home much more appealing to the buyers who are walking in your door."
Another recommendation from RE/MAX agents is that owners de-personalize their homes as much as possible when attempting to sell. This means removing family photos, awards and other memorabilia and going easy on Halloween decorations.
"Don't turn your home into a haunted house if you're trying to sell it," advises Koslofski. Too many decorations turn off some buyers and make it difficult for any buyer to fully appreciate the features of the home itself.
A final tip is especially important at this time of year, when natural light is less abundant than in spring and summer. Keep the home as bright as possible, letting daylight through clean windows and making sure the interior is well lit and cheery for evening showings.
"There are real advantages to selling a home during the fall and winter seasons because buyers, though they are fewer in number, tend to be quite serious about finding a home," said Cobb. "However, a serious buyer is likely to respond best to a well prepared property, so sellers do themselves a real service by maximizing the sales appeal of their home."